How to Design a Homepage that Converts

You Want a Converting Homepage, Huh?

It’s a fact: First impressions matter and make a difference.

Go to an interview dressed in a t-shirt, jeans, and sandals? Don’t be surprised if you don’t land the position. Talk only about yourself on a first date? Don’t be surprised if they don’t call you back. Have a lackluster homepage cluttered with text? Don’t be surprised if your bounce rate is abnormally high.

For practically everything in life, first impressions really matter, and that’s applicable even to your website and homepage. When visitors land on your website, the first thing they’ll see is your homepage – and because of this, your homepage really needs to pack a punch if you want visitors to continue browsing through your entire website. If you can’t make visitors stay for the homepage, you’ve got a problem. So, how do you go about creating and designing the mastermind homepage that converts? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back with exactly how.

1. Simplicity is Vital

For your homepage, simplicity is key. Having too much text, images, and overall clutter are way too distracting for visitors. In fact, all the clutter tends to be overlooked more than anything – which you definitely don’t want!

The most effective home pages have clean, minimalistic, and simple designs. Now, that’s not to say that it should be basic (that’s a no-no too), but it shouldn’t be chaotic for the eye. Your homepage should only have what needs to be there. As for all the content and images you have, it’s fine to include it in your website, but don’t pack it all onto your homepage – spread it around on different tabs.

2. Load Time & High-Quality Images

Have you ever been on Google searching for an image and then found one you like? However, when you clicked it, the image takes forever to load and is just a blurry mess, so you just look for a different one? Yup … I think we’ve all been there. Both the poor quality and load time of the image were deterrents for us to stick with it. If people are this impatient for an image, imagine how impatient they would be for a website. Visitors clicking out on your website are going to soar your bounce rate, which is never good.

Also, while it’s great to have images, make sure you don’t overload your homepage (or any page) with them. For one, they’ll slow down your page’s loading time – and we already know how impatient people are today. People are all about that instant gratification and if your website doesn’t deliver, they’re out. Two, having too many images doesn’t actually help your homepage convert. For this, you need a happy balance of having just the right amount of images, like Goldilocks. 😌

3. Make the Call-to-Action Obvious

Let’s be real: The truth is that most people are lazy and if anything takes more effort than they’re willing to expend, then it’s not going to happen. This is the same with the call-to-action on your homepage. Your call-to-action needs to be clearly visible.  If visitors need to search for your call-to-action, then you might want to consider rethinking where it’s placed.

While a call-to-action is great, make sure you don’t overdo it – one is more than sufficient to be effective. In fact, having too many call-to-action buttons actually works the opposite way you want it to and instead, becomes confusing as visitors won’t know which one to click on.

With your call-to-action, you also need to take into account the wording of it. It’s best to have a call-to-action that is clear, action benefit-oriented, and tells you exactly what happens when you click on it.

4. Mobile-Responsiveness

Today, it’s a given that people are always on their phones – it’s definitely more compact and convenient than bringing a laptop everywhere. In fact, people are on their phones more often than they are on their computers or laptops with 52.2% of website traffic coming from mobile phones in 2018. With just over half of the global traffic on mobile, if you don’t have a mobile responsive website, you’ve gotten yourself in a pickle.

Without a mobile-responsive website, you’ve already lost a huge chunk of visitors who don’t have the patience to continue browsing through your homepage, let alone your website.

So, keep all of these points in mind when you’re designing your homepage if you want to see positive results on your business’ conversion numbers.

Interested in designing your homepage with Evilnut? Contact us at service@evilnut.ca or call us at 604.704.6605.

The 101 on Front-End, Back-End, and Full-Stack Developers

Have you ever been on a website and wondered how does all this happen? How does the click of a button lead to a different web page? How am I able to chat with my friends on a website? How am I able to listen to music and watch videos? All of these features you take for granted are thanks to the work of talentedly skilled people called developers.

For those of us who don’t have much (or any 😅) experience with codes, programming languages, and computers in general, websites seem like an enigma – mysterious, puzzling, and difficult to understand. To be fair, websites are an enigma, even for the most talented developers at times, but that’s part of the fun. 😜

In the world of web developers, there are three different (but intertwined) kinds of roles – front-end, back-end, and full-stack. Firstly, we’ll talk about front-end and back-end, and then finish off with full-stack developers.

Looking at the Bigger Picture of Web Development

Before we dive into the specifics of what each role comprises of, we’re going to look at the bigger picture with a metaphor. Front-end and back-end developers are a tad bit different, but have their own respective similarities. In fact, there are some connected responsibilities between the two.

Let’s visualize it with a simple metaphor. Imagine your head. Yup, you heard that right.

If we’re looking at your head, then your face is the front-end because it’s the part of your head that interacts and communicates with people and the outside world around you. And if your face is the front-end, then your brain is the back-end because that’s where all the information you receive from your surroundings is stored and sent from.

Makes much more sense now, right? You’re welcome. 😉

Front-End Developers

Now, a little bit more into the specifics of what front-end entails. Front-end developers create the code for the things on the website (or application) that you see – hence, why it’s called the client-side of things. You’re referred to as the client and everything that you see and interact with is created by the front-end developers.

These front-end developers are responsible for everything that you see and play with when you’re navigating around the Internet. If you see it, they code it – fonts, colours, banners, dropdown menus, sliders, and more! In fact, they’re the ones who take the design and code it to create a functioning website. Talk about skills!

The key programming languages front-end developers use are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Back-End Developers

Back-end developers are slightly different than front-end developers. Unlike front-end developers, their work is primarily focused on the things that you can’t actually see in the browser, like the database and server – hence, why they’re called the server-side of things. Their responsibilities involve a strong focus on data as they need to be able to work across several databases and servers from different service providers.

While front-end and back-end developers constantly need to be able to work together in a mutually supportive relationship, back-end developers work with front-end developers specifically to make their code work within the website and over all front-end.

The key programming languages back-end developers use are PHP, Ruby, and Python.

Full-Stack Developers

Last, but not least: Full-stack developers. These developers are considered to be a hybrid of the two we talked about earlier and are familiar and work with both the front-end and back-end of a website. Because they need to be acquainted with both ends, they tend to be familiar with HTML, CSS, JavaScript and one or more back-end programming languages.

Full-stack developers are responsible for the entire flow and experience on a website from its design, responsiveness, interactivity, structural composition, loading time, and more. That’s quite a load of work for one developer – and it is. But full-stack developers don’t necessarily work on all the functions and components on their own, they just have the experience and fluidity to be able to so they can get their hands dirty wherever they’re needed. Flexibility is a full-stack developer’s middle name. 😜

Now that you know about the different types of developers, are any of you motivated to become one yourself? 😜

Mobile Apps: The Missing Game Changer for Your Business

Mobile Apps: Can’t Leave Home Without ‘Em

Question: What are some things you can’t leave home without? Without thinking too much about it, the core necessities are things like keys, wallet, and phone right? Maybe add in a few other bits and bobs like a portable charger or some hand sanitizer, but that’s the main gist of it.

Unmistakeably, phones are one of the things 99.99% of people can’t leave home without (#firstworldproblems). And what’s on the phones that everyone brings with them all the time? If you guessed apps, then you guessed right!

If 99.99% of people bring their phones with them all the time (thereby, also bringing apps), why wouldn’t you want your business to have an app?

More and more companies are creating apps for their business whether it’s to support direct retailing, communication, marketing purposes, updates, or rewards!

Zara, Foodora, Starbucks, Sephora, Tim Hortons, Door Dash, Nike, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, you name it … the list just keeps going on and on. I mean, check your phone now, how many apps do you have on your phone? Case in point.

The Growing Need for an App

A few years ago, mobile apps weren’t exactly a necessity for businesses because smartphones weren’t easily accessible to everyone yet (and not to mention the lack of GB space to download them). But today, times have changed and things are different. Everyone is on always on their phones and using apps to make purchases, stay up to date, and connect with the world around them.  

Two decades ago, there was a time when websites were considered to be a competitive advantage, but today that’s no longer the case. In fact, now you need a website or it’s like your business doesn’t exist (just kidding, but you get the point). And guess what? Mobile apps are going to be essential to your business just like websites are now.

Considering all of this, your business definitely needs an app more than you think. If these reasons weren’t enough for you, don’t worry, we’ve got more. Get ready. 📱

1. Marketing and Communications

Things like email marketing are great (don’t get me wrong), but let’s be real, who checks their email anymore? Or at least, who checks their email more frequently than their phone? (Email push notifications don’t count because those come from apps too).

If you want direct and immediate communication with your customers, push notifications are the way to go. Because these notifications go straight to their phone, they’re bound to see it immediately.

Sometimes, you have time-sensitive offers or codes that you want to push out immediately. Mobile apps allow you to do exactly that. With push notifications, you can push your promotional content directly on phones and notification screens to keep them updated with all the things your company is up to. Have a sale going on? You can notify your customers right on their phone the second the sale goes live. Think of all the possibilities you can do!

2. Data and Analytics

One of the great things about an app is that you can collect data and analytics straight from it. All of the data is practically handed to you on a silver platter as your customers download and use your app.

By having an app, you get data on where your users are located, what time they’re using the app, how long they’re on the app for, what they do on the app, their demographics, and much more!

If your business allows you to do online retailing and sell actual products, you can even see what things people are buying the most on your app. Plus, by having a clear understanding of how customers respond to your app, you can improve it to make it better and provide them with a better experience.

3. Accessibility

One of the great things about an app is that it’s accessible practically 24/7 and is with them wherever their phone is. Your users can constantly access it (even at home or when your store is closed!) and they don’t need to wait for you to open your doors every morning to use your app.

And as a bonus, if your business can sell your products on your app, you can drive sales even when you’re sleeping! What’s not to love about that?

As we’ve discussed, a mobile app is evidently an asset your business needs. What are you waiting for? Start building your app today. Contact us if you’re interested in building it with Evilnut.

Looking Into the Future: Artificial Intelligence and It’s Uses Today

“What do you call a cat does it take to screw in a light bulb? They could worry the banana.”

“Why did the monsters change a lightbulb? And a cow the cough.”

“What did the new ants say after a dog? It was a pirate.”

Are you lost? Confused? Perplexed? Well, we were too. These set of jokes were created by a form of artificial intelligence (AI), who quite frankly, doesn’t sound too intelligent. In a recent fun experiment, a technologist trained a neural network to write one-liner jokes based on a set of 43,000 jokes and these jokes were the result. It seems as though not all forms of artificial intelligence are created equally. 😂

Artificial Intelligence: The Talk of the Century

Today, it seems as though artificial intelligence is understandably everywhere. Regardless of whether you’re on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or even Snapchat, people can’t stop talking about AI – posts, news stories, pictures, videos, you name it, everyone loves to cover it. However, you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s talked about by everyone. Why? Well, it’s a new and controversial topic of its own (and who doesn’t love that?)

But what is artificial intelligence? You might already be using it without realizing it.

Have you used a virtual assistant anytime recently? Siri? Cortana? Alexa? All of these are narrow (also known as weak) forms of AI. Basically, AI encompasses the technological science and development of computer systems to be able to perform simple and complex tasks that would normally require human intelligence. AI allows computer programs to replicate human thoughts and actions. Pretty cool, right? 😎

Skeptic or Embracer?

There are two kinds of people in the world – tech skeptics and tech embracers. You’re either for or against it. Not surprisingly, tech skeptics tend to focus only on the negative and dystopian-like consequences of anything technology-related. If you’re a skeptic yourself, boy, have I got some news for you that just might change your mind on how you see technology (and maybe even convert you into an embracer). 😁

I’d like to introduce some ways you’re likely already using AI on a daily basis. Get ready to say hello to the future before you can even say “robots.” 🤖

1. Facebook

With over 2.32 billion monthly active users on Facebook, chances are you’re included in that number.

Have you ever been scrolling through your feed when BAM, something randomly pops up that you really like or find so funny you need to tag your friends in? 🙋‍ 🙋‍ Well, that’s the power of Facebook’s AI algorithm. The algorithm is intelligently designed and developed to analyze what you do, who you follow, what you like and comment the most on, and what you share frequently on Facebook. All of these help Facebook grasp a clear idea of what you like based on your actions – showing you similar suggestions and content that you’ll want to share with your friends. That’s why AI is the backbone of how and why Facebook is so popular.

2. Netflix and Spotify

We’ve all been there shamelessly binging on our favourite shows or listening to our favourite songs on repeat 100 times – and Netflix and Spotify are fuelling all this. Do you like your Discover Weekly list on Spotify or your Recommendations list on Netflix? So do we, and we’ve got AI to thank for these! If not for AI, how do you think these suggestions are so accurate to what we like? Based on the previous shows or movies you’ve watched and songs you’ve streamed, Netflix and Spotify’s AI suggests new movies, shows, podcasts, artists, and songs based on a predictive algorithm.

3. Siri, Cortana, and Alexa

Whether you’re too lazy to move across the room, driving and can’t access your phone, or just like having the extra help, virtual assistants are forms of AI that are there to make our lives better.

Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Google, you name it, these voice-activated assistants utilize a speech recognition feature active in AI. The assistants connect to your stored information (like texts, notes, reminders, contacts, music, and more) to become smarter and simplify (or save!) your life. We know there have been a few times where Siri has reminded us about our appointments or forgotten birthdays (oops!) 😅

4. Tesla

As a leader in innovative car design, features, and functions, Tesla is known for their intelligent vehicles with AI abilities such as predictive capabilities and self-driving features. Anyone who’s a car fanatic has definitely fallen head over heels in love with these state-of-the-art vehicles that just exude luxury and class.

Hmm, would you look at that? A few examples of AI that you’ve most likely seen or used in your everyday life – it’s more tangible than you think. More innovative and complex AI technologies and capabilities are sure to appear in the next few years that are going to knock your socks off.

To end on a fun note, why don’t you try hanging out with a friend of ours for a bit? Meet Cleverbot. J

How Instagram is Emerging as the New Prime Marketing Platform

Instagram’s Influence

No doubt, social media is powerful and influential around the world, but which platform is the most influential? Ask anybody and their answer might vary from the next person you ask, it’s an arbitrary answer. Unless you answer Myspace that is, then you might obviously be in your 20’s-30’s and very out of the loop.

Ask me though, and I would answer Instagram, hands-down, as the most influential and powerful marketing platform among individuals today. Why? Well, let’s discuss.

For starters, Instagram had over 800 million monthly active users in 2017. 800 million. 51% of these users visit the platform daily and check it multiple times throughout their day. Instagram has become a full-fledged, global platform that encourages and allows brands to humanize their content, recruit new talent, showcase products, and inspire their audience.

Instagram for Your Business

Just how exactly, can Instagram be of superb benefit for your business?

While Snapchat originated the idea of Stories, Instagram and other respective platforms have made it redundant and unnecessary. By incorporating an equivalent Stories feature into their platform, Instagram has made Snapchat obsolete. Even more, there are 200 million people using Instagram stories on a daily basis compared to 160 million on Snapchat.

Additionally, Instagram’s platform manifests permanence through a user’s ability to scroll through previous posts and highlight Stories for long periods of time (as opposed to only 24 hours). By allowing users to see previous posts, they understand a fuller and better idea of the community behind a company. With a better sense of community, the connections between company and potential consumers are better recognized and experienced. This connection is strong enough that one in five Instagram Stories receive a direct message from a viewer, and 70% of Instagrammers follow a business. In fact, Instagram users are actually seeking contact with brands – brands no longer have to seek out consumers, as consumers seek them out instead.

More than anything, businesses want their consumers to be interested and engaged. Instagram does better than any other social media platform, including Facebook, in terms of engagement. The average number of likes on Instagram compared to Facebook is significantly more for Instagram.

So, while there are multiple social media platforms to choose from for your business, Instagram is not one that your business wants to skip out on. With 45.6% of Instagram users more likely to remember marketing campaigns on Instagram itself over TV commercials and other traditional media, it’s a marketing strategy that you definitely want to focus on.

Social Media as the New TV

We Bid Thee Adieu TV Marketing

A few years ago (or maybe even a decade!), TV was considered to be the primary marketing channel to connect to consumers with. However, with the exponential rise of technology development and engagement, there is a new king taking the throne away from TV. Audience viewership is moving away from linear TV to go further online. Going even farther than TV did, social media is no longer simply just a marketing channel – it’s become a customer experience channel. Instead of being the platform brands use to increase sales, it’s become a part of the actual brand experience itself. The brand experience that a company delivers is about designing a sensory experience that builds the connection and relationship between a brand and its customer.

TV marketing is no longer (or maybe never was) an optimum choice for many companies – especially small and starting up companies, and even relatively established businesses. While TV reaches a very wide audience, it has its own drawbacks. For starters, it’s extremely expensive with only reasonable, but not extraordinary, conversion rates. Additionally, because it reaches such a wide audience, there are no personalization options, making the advertisement just generic enough to capture the actual attention of a small audience.

Social Media Marketing

Compared to TV, social media thrives as a smart marketing strategy because it: targets B2B and B2C audiences; enhances a company’s online reputation and brand awareness; reaches new target audiences; allows companies to communicate more directly with clients; keeps track of companies’ online reputation; engages customers in a more personal, dynamic, and interactive manner; develops an online identity; and increases website traffic.

A thorough social media strategy can help target specific demographics and interests to build awareness and interest of your brand, products, and/or services. With social media, there are particular influencers and thought leaders that have great influence over the decisions of particular individuals – such as celebrities on fan and YouTubers on their subscribers.

Unlike TV, social media posts can be used to boost a company website’s SEO. By posting on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, search engine crawlers can sift through your content and discover which pages consistently earn traffic – drawing attention to company websites. While a strategically planned SEO concept is crucial to earning high rankings in search engines, the traffic received from social media platforms to your optimized pages will allow rankings to climb faster in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

The Personalization Factor

One of the most important factors that consumers look for in brands and businesses is a personal connection to the brand. By marketing on social media, businesses are able to showcase their humanization factor and foster close-knit relationships with their consumers. The interactions between business and audience personify the brand – by creating and sharing content, commenting, and posting statuses, the consumer feels a human connection with the brand. This relationship with consumers is important because it leads to a positive result in sales. Consumers are more likely to consider the business that they have the most personal connection with when considering a product/service purchase. Better impressions on visitors correlates positively with sales.

If you don’t believe that personalization will do wonders for your business, just take a look at these numbers! Businesses that personalized their web and online experiences saw an average 19% increase in sales. Customers strongly value the personalization experience as 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company if a personalized experience is offered.

While TV might have been considered to be a successful marketing tactic a few years ago, it is no longer an efficient or feasible option for many businesses today. So, if you want the marketing tactic with the most substantial and concrete outcomes for your business, make sure you have a strong social media strategy!

Why Is Technology So Important?

As you’re reading this blog right now, you’re using technology (I mean, it’s not like your reading this in print in your local newspaper. Duh!) Technology is all around us wherever we go – at work, at home, at the beach, in the park, literally everywhere.

Almost every aspect of our work (and every day!) lives are integrated or associated with technology. So, it should be no surprise that technology is important in a corporate setting. In almost any industry, if not every industry, it’s nearly impossible to avoid using technology in our work lives. Technology has such a critical and integral role that it’s considered to be a necessity, but why exactly is it so important?

1. Technology Makes Communication More Efficient

In any circumstance, we need to communicate, whether it’s with our coworkers, clients, or managers. Can you image if every time we needed to contact anyone (remotely, that is), we would need to send them a physical letter that needs to get sent through the post, wait for them to write their response and send it back in the mail, and then finally get it after how many weeks? How fun times would be. But luckily, technology has resolved this problem for us as we can now email, call, and even text anyone, anywhere and (hopefully! hehe) receive a response almost immediately. The amount of time and resources this saves is tremendous for business systems.

2. Technology Supports Online Marketing Strategies

Today, most marketing is done online and digitally. The most successful marketing campaigns are definitely not the ones where you feature your business in the classified section of the daily newspaper or the local transit waiting area (although you could argue otherwise, I suppose). But think about it: SEO, blogging, website and app development, email marketing, and social media are all successful and rewarding online strategies. All of these strategies would not be possible without the help of technology.

3. Technology Offers Security

In the corporate world, businesses can be subject to security threats and vandalism. However, technology can be used to secure and protect any confidential and sensitive data through encryption, passwords, and other forms of protected technology.

However, it’s best to keep in mind that while no method of storing data is guaranteed to be 100% secure, storing data in a safe and encrypted drive ensures more protection.

Our lives would be very different without technology today so it’s no doubt that it’s significantly impacted and simplified many tedious processes. Thanks to technology we’ve saved time and efforts, making our business processes more efficient. Remember to not take it for granted. 😌

Where We See the IoT

In the introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT), we explored what it is, how it works, and experienced the life-saving properties of it (at least saving from an angry significant other heh heh 😜). So if you haven’t already, take some time to read through the first installment of the IoT before you continue on here.

Today, we’ll be discussing another segment of the IoT – where we see it today and in the future. Considering the exponential growths technology is undergoing, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we can expect to see the IoT more and more around us in the very near future. Heck, some of us might already be using it now … let’s take a look at some examples of the IoT being applied today:

Fitbit One 

If you like to be fit (pun intended) or exercise regularly, you’ve probably heard of or used Fitbit One which tracks your steps, floors climbed, calories burned, and sleep quality. Where the IoT comes in for the Fitbit One is through monitoring your progress. Any data that’s collected from the device is wirelessly synced with your computer and/or smartphone, which transmits the fitness data into comprehensive charts that track and monitor your growth.

Barcelona

WOAHHH. What??? An entire city can integrate the IoT?? Believe it or not, it’s true. In 2012, Barcelona began deploying responsive technologies across urban systems including public transit, parking, street lighting, and waste management. Using 500 kilometers of fiber optic cable within the city initiated 30 years ago, individual IoT systems across urban services were created.

To improve energy efficiencies, Barcelona installed 19,500 smart meters that monitor and optimize energy consumption in targeted areas of the city. To decrease waste production, households deposited waste in municipal smart bins that monitor waste levels and optimize collection routes. For transportation, digital bus stops were installed that feature updates on bus locations, USB charging stations, free WiFi, and tools to help passengers download apps to learn more about the city. For drivers, sensor systems were applied that guide drivers to available parking spots. And this is only the beginning of the scope, many more initiatives were practiced by the city of Barcelona.

These innovations brought about significant cost savings, improved the quality of life for residents, and established Barcelona as a center for the young IoT Industry.

Amazon Go

Have you ever been to Amazon Go? It’s the store where customers go in, pick up what they need, and leave without interacting with any actual cashiers. In fact, the entire checkout process is automated and lets customers put merchandise directly into their shopping bag and walk out. Just like that.

How does this work? The store has gates (similar to the gates at train stations) and only allows those who have the Amazon Go smartphone app to enter. Every time a customer takes an item off its shelf, the item is placed into their online shopping cart. Conversely, if the item is placed back on the shelf, it’s removed from their online shopping cart as well.

While there’s only one location available now, there’s bound to be more considering where the future of the IoT is heading to now.

The Future of the IoT

In 2016, over 3.9 billion connected devices were used worldwide. By 2020, the number of connected devices is expected to be up to 21 billion. That’s 5.38 times more and the number is only going to go up from there.

Many more cities will become smart cities and use IoT technology to automate, remotely manage, and collect data, and artificial intelligence will become a ‘real thing’ with the IoT. This is only the beginning of the future. J

Welcome to the Internet of Things

Welcome to the Internet of Things … where everything is intertwined and connected. Welcome to a new age where your car is no longer just a car, your home is no longer just a home, and your appliances are no longer just your appliances, all thanks to the workings of the IoT.

Let’s take a minute to dose ourselves with a free rush of adrenaline for a minute. 😜

Have you ever lost your keys? Misplaced them? And for whatever reason to save your life, you couldn’t find them? You know that if you can’t find these keys in the next 30 minutes, your significant other is going to come home and be furious to find you locked out because you lost them (again!) To be fair though and on your side, keys are small and could easily get lost hehe. 😬

But imagine this: Being able to track down your lost keys (or whatever else it is you easily lose!) using Bluetooth and other wireless technology devices. You’re in for a treat though because you don’t only have to imagine this. It is possible (and a game changer for those who tend to be on the more forgetful side). This is the power of the Internet of Things.

The Internet of What?

Today it’s all about the Internet of Things (IoT). But what is it exactly? What are these things? Well, the Internet of Things refers to the “rapidly growing network of connected objects that are able to collect and exchange data using embedded sensors” and encompasses devices that are connected together through the Internet. Basically, it consists of devices that are able to connect to the Internet to simplify or ease life processes. In traditional and conventional situations, these devices aren’t typically connected, but thanks to the IoT, now are. By combining these now connected devices with automated systems, we can gather information, analyze it, and create an action to help engage in a particular task or learn from a process.

These things to be connected can range from anything and everything from thermostats, lights, and wearables to actual homes, retail stores, vehicles, and even entire cities! You name it, if it can be connected to the Internet, it’s a part of the IoT!

How Does the IoT Work?

For those with a curious mind, we have a lot of unanswered questions about a lot of things. But the IoT won’t be one of those things (not anymore at least!) How the IoT works is simple. A complete IoT system integrates four components: Sensors/devices, connectivity, data processing, and a user interface.

1. Sensors/Devices

This first component collects data and information from its environment. These sensors and/or devices can collect data such as how many kilometers you’ve walked, a voice recording, or the temperature inside.

2. Connectivity

After the data is collected, it’s sent to the cloud – and no, not like the ones in the sky. On the cloud, you can store and access data and programs over the Internet.

But how does the data get sent there? It can be through a number of methods such as cellular, satellite, WiFi, low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN), or a connection directly to the Internet via Ethernet.

While each option has trade-offs between power consumption, range, and bandwidth that depend on the actual IoT application, they all accomplish the same task of getting the data to the cloud.

3. Data Processing

Once the data arrives on the cloud, software processing begins. Examples of processing could be regulating whether you reach your daily goal for steps walked or ensuring that the temperature is within a comfortable range.

However, technology devices can only go so far. What happens when something happens like the temperature reaches too high? This is where we, as intelligent humans, come in.

4. User Interface

We are also a part of the IoT’s intricate system. In the case of abnormally high temperatures, users would get notified of the situation or we could program predefined rules that suggest the system to lower the temperature automatically. Either way, the IoT allows users to have the choice to check in on the process or automate it.

With the substantial power of the IoT, it’s clearly not going anywhere anytime soon. In the second installment of the IoT rundown, we’ll discuss some current very innovative applications and where it’s heading in the future. Stay tuned 😉

It’s Here and Now: Virtual Reality

Unless you’re Patrick Star from SpongeBob and have been living under a rock, you’re probably familiar with the Netflix series phenomenon, Black Mirror. Even the name sounds intimidating and intense, but I digress. 😶

Now, one of Black Mirror’s episode explores the trending sensation of virtual reality and the potential (not absolute, keep in mind) alarming and horrifying consequences that it bears for our distant (or maybe not so distant) future. (By the way, I’m referring to Playtest from episode 2 of season 3 if you’re curious hehe). If you’re not a Black Mirror fanatic (which I definitely am not 🙃) and haven’t watched the episode yet, then it tells the story of an American traveler stuck in Europe who accepts a one-time trial job offer from a video game company – unbeknownst to him, his life is about to become literally forever changed. No spoilers here, you’ve got to watch it for yourself.

But I’ve talked enough about Black Mirror. While the story that this episode employs is particularly extreme (for now, at least 😳), virtual reality isn’t all bad and scary. In fact, it’s being used and conceptualized today (for good!) in ways that you might never expect. Used in the best interest for humankind, virtual reality has the power to alter the way we experience everyday life.  

Entertainment

For the everyday person like you and I, one of the most obvious ways we can incorporate or use virtual reality is through entertainment. Maybe it’s through video games, museums and galleries, theme park rides or even movie theatres! The possibilities are endless.

However, even if you haven’t had the chance to experience virtual reality yourself, you’ve likely seen the white egg-shaped capsules in malls before … these capsules bring users into a different reality, a different dimension. With these capsules, you can experience what it’d be like to be in space with no gravity, or somewhere deep in the middle of the jungle surrounded by tropical trees and wild animals, or even what it’d be like to actually play your favourite hero in your favourite video game. With virtual reality, you decide what world you want to immerse yourself in.  

Space

Space, space, space. If you’re like the 99.99% of us, you’ve probably never been in space and never will be. Sigh 😪. But that’s okay, because we don’t need to be in actual space to experience what it would be like, thanks to virtual reality. At CES (a global technology exhibit event), NASA used virtual reality technology to allow guests to feel what it would be like onboard some of their various spacecraft vehicles and machines.

Along with this, NASA used virtual reality in actual space to control robots on Mars and provide astronauts with a way to de-stress. At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, researchers connected Oculus Rift (a virtual reality device) with motion-sensing equipment from the Kinect 2 sensor and Xbox One game console to control a robotic arm with the operator’s gestures. How cool is that!

Medical

Believe it or not, virtual reality used for medical purposes can help stop the brain from processing pain and cure soreness for patients. Yup, you heard that right! Just by immersing yourself in a different reality, your brain can actually minimize pain. For the patient, virtual reality offers motion and visual based experiences that help fix brain discordances. With this innovative and unique process, the time patients spend in the hospital is significantly shortened and the cost of treatment is lowered.

Another way virtual reality is used in the medical field is through 3-D models that help plan surgery operations. As you can figure, being a doctor and performing high-risk surgery is no easy feat. Virtual reality helps doctors visualize 3-D organs on actual 360-degree graphics (instead of on 2-D paper, which as you can imagine, doesn’t do much). With virtual reality, computed tomography (which is a representation of a cross section through a human body) can be used to create 3-D images in real-time.

Shopping

For those who are guilty as shopaholics, this use of virtual reality is probably your favourite. If you don’t already have enough excuses to go browse through your favourite shops, this one should top the list.

Trillenium is working on developing an augmented and virtual reality shopping experience that allows users to immerse themselves into a different universe (or so feels like it for the shopaholic 😜). Trillenium is exploring the viable possibility of allowing shoppers to virtually try on merchandise through their mobile devices, switching through different options with every swipe. With this kind of service, shoppers would be able to point their phone at their feet and swipe through shoes, as if they were physically putting them on with every swipe.

Along with this, Trillenium has already developed and released virtual tours of entire stores where shoppers can experience real-time shopping in the comfort of their own home, or anywhere they want. In fact, massive online retailer, ASOS, is already on board with Trillenium for this. Imagine being able to shop (and not just online!) from your couch or bed. Sign me up!!

Ambiguity Is the Future’s Best Friend

As discussed above, not all cases of virtual reality are morbidly traumatic and frightening (ahem, thanks a lot Black Mirror 😩). Some of them actually help to make people’s lives better and make some of our everyday processes more efficient – which all makes for the world to be a better place 😌.

In the future, near or far, don’t be surprised to see virtual reality used more ubiquitously in all kinds of industries. Who knows where the future might take us …